Many business coaches claim they will help you “unleash your potential” and achieve goals 10x faster than usual. Unfortunately, this is a claim that cannot be substantiated. It’s the opposite of what most business coaches do—which is to help you find your answers and create your success.
After reading all the business books, downloading all the freebies, and taking courses in entrepreneurship, there’s no doubt that you are familiar with this world. So how can you know whether working with a coach will help?
That is what we are going to discuss in this article. We will look at the following:
- The qualifications of a good life or business coach
- How to know if their coaching philosophy works for your situation
- Red flags and green flags for each stage of the hiring process
- The sales page
- The discovery call
- A final gut check
Let’s get started!
What to Look for in a life or business Coach
What qualities make a good life or business coach?
So, when looking at a life or business coach’s website, keep an eye out for these four qualification signals.
#1: Have They Done Any Coach Training?
When you are looking for a life and business coach, it’s important to ask about their training, education, and experience. You should know whether the coach has a degree in coaching or psychology.
If so, do they specialize in helping you with your specific needs? If your goal is to start a business, does the coach also have experience in that area?
The person’s expertise isn’t just something they learned by doing or experienced firsthand; it is backed up by credentials, such as coaching certifications or degrees in psychology, counseling, etc.
They have real coaching credentials to show and ideally even have a background in psychology, counseling, or other related fields. This is important because supporting someone to make a behavior change is an art and a craft. You want to be able to see that they have invested in learning the trade and are serious about the professionalization of an unregulated industry.
The International Coaching Federation ICF is the life and business coaches’ most common credentialing body. But each country usually has a national organization as well where your coach might be credentialed.
While a credentials-only approach can be an indicator of legitimacy, it is not the only one. When selecting a coach, you may also want to consider their training and whether they have any testimonials available—from your peers or clients that are willing to offer them.
The ICF certification might not be a good fit for coaches who may: find the cost prohibitive or feel that only some of their training will count toward this designation when working with clients and/or professional organizations or institutions. Many coaching clients don’t care about all this anyway – they’re just happy to have someone listen and support them through a change process.
Many life and business coaches who want to become Master level will spend 15-20 thousand dollars on training. But if one of their ICF certifications is denied, they might not pursue the certification at all.
But what is non-negotiable is this:
- Your life and/or business coach is serious about coaching as a profession
- Your life and/or business coach has done coach training or other psychological training
- Your life and/or business coach has experience with the problem you want help with (i.e., productivity)
- Your coach has several years of coaching experience. They are not a newbie.
Coaching is not a lifestyle business for them; they are passionate about their craft and would use “coach” in their job title (i.e., it’s not just one of their many offerings because it’s easy to “talk to people on the phone”)
Rule of thumb: If you can see that the life or business has spent time learning its craft, you can move on to the next step.
#2: Do They Have Psychological Training?
A coach does not need to be a psychologist, therapist or counselor. But there is no coaching without psychology—coaching is an intervention in the psychological realm. And humans are complex!
That’s why it’s useful to work with a coach who has some background in psychology. They’re trained to look at humans analytically and strategically, which can be helpful in figuring out why someone might be procrastinating. They might also be able to spot possible diagnoses, like neurodiversity (ADHD, autism) or depression. This means you can work on addressing the underlying issues and tailoring your productivity and business strategies to your unique psychological make-up.
What exactly is the difference between a psychological coach and a regular coach?
Coaches with psychological backgrounds are trained to analyze people and identify patterns in behavior that might be invisible to laymen. They are aware of the most common mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. And they are less likely to let their own biases and life experience dictate the coaching plan they create for you.
Personally, I do work with coaches without a psychology background if—and only if—I have a strong gut feeling that they know what they are doing. see this as bonus criterion rather than non-negotiable
#3: Do they have the ability to help you accomplish your goals?
We all have goals, dreams, and ambitions. We may not always be sure how to get there or where to start, but we know we want our lives and business to work in a healthier way. This is where coaching comes into play.
You’re looking for someone who will encourage you, challenge you and be honest with you about where your behaviors are holding you back from achieving your goals.
As well as being encouraging, they’ll also want to help you define what success looks like for yourself—and then push past any self-imposed limitations that might stand in the way of achieving it (such as “It’s too late.”)
The other part of life coaching is helping you get clear on what you want out of life and business. You want to be able to break down those big goals into smaller action steps and create a plan to achieve them. This will help keep you focused on what really matters in your life.
#4 Do They Have Good Testimonials?
When you’re looking for a qualified coach, it’s important to check their reviews and testimonials. See if their clients talk about concrete results they achieved, like completing a project or working less.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of having a supportive person in your corner, but that doesn’t mean the coaching is actually effective. You want to hear about real changes that people have made.
Here is an example of a “bad” testimonial:
“John Doe was a great listener and provided me with excellent insights. I feel like I’ve grown from our conversations, and I’m more confident. I would recommend him to anyone!”
Here is an example of a “good” testimonial:
Ever since I started working with Laken Lane, my business has been growing in leaps and bounds.
As a small business owner, I have always had to wear many hats. I am the CEO, the marketing department, the operations manager, and even the janitor when nobody else is around! But recently, it became clear that if I wanted to continue growing my business, I needed help.
The Team behind Laken Lane has helped me implement a system that let me delegate some of those tasks to others so that I could focus on what matters: growing my company. They also helped me develop my team’s skills so they could take on more responsibility. As a result of their help, we’ve increased our revenue over 300% in the past 6 months!
Now we have an automated system in place where everyone knows exactly what needs to be done so that things run smoothly regardless of whether or not I’m around—and all without needing me to do everyone’s jobs myself!
If your coach has no or few testimonials, they may be a beginner. Or maybe they aren’t great at marketing! Regardless, this is something to take into consideration when making your choice.
Just because your coach doesn’t have testimonials that go into great detail about what you achieved or how much they’ve helped in a particular area, it doesn’t mean their coaching is bad. It just means they’re not particularly good at marketing themselves and getting clients to talk about their amazing work.
If your coach cannot clearly show that she is getting people the results they want, you should be cautious.
Summary of Qualifications
- Your coach is a trained professional with several years of experience.
- Your coach has a philosophy or behavior change model that makes sense to you.
- The solution they describe resonates deeply.
- They have testimonials that prove they have gotten people results in the past.
- Bonus: Your coach has a background in psychology.
As you research life and business coaches, you’ll want to evaluate their programs to see if they’re a good fit for you. Here are some factors to consider as you look at coaching programs.
What to Look for in a Productivity Coaching Program
There’s no guarantee that someone is a good coach just because they’re a best-selling author or have a large online following. Just because someone is popular doesn’t mean they’re actually effective at changing people’s behavior for the better.
Here are some common phrases you don’t want to see on your coach’s sales page.
The price of coaching is an important consideration. However, unless your coach is a world-renowned expert on your topic, coaching shouldn’t cost $100,000.
Ensure that the coach isn’t using the investment to force a commitment from you. This could indicate that they don’t have more sophisticated tactics to help you change your behavior.
You want the change process to be dependent on more than just your motivation. If the coach is a famous expert, ensure they can coach vs. mentor you (coaching = behavior change, mentoring = advice).
Here are some positive signs you might see on a good life and business coach’s sales page:
If you find a coaching program you’re interested in, the next step is scheduling a discovery call with the coach. This is an opportunity for you and the coach to get to know each other and figure out if there’s a good fit.
the discovery call
Before you start working with a coach, it’s important to have a consultation or discovery call. This is your first chance to assess whether or not the coach is a good fit for you. During the call, be sure to ask questions about the coach’s experience, approach, and style.
What Happens During a Discovery Call with a Coach?
When you participate in a discovery call with a potential coach, you can learn more about the coach and their services. The coach will ask you questions to understand your goals for coaching, and they will also share more about their philosophy and experience. This is your chance to ask any questions you have and get a sense of whether or not this coach is right for you.
What to Ask the Coach
It might be helpful to ask yourself a few questions before the call, such as: What information do I need to decide about their program? What am I feeling insecure about? Doing this will ensure that you get the most out of the call.
If you don’t know a lot about their coaching qualifications yet, consider asking some of these questions:
- Did you do a specific coach certification or training?
- Are you credentialed with the ICF or somewhere else?
- How many years have you been coaching people 1-on-1?
If you are unsure if their program works for people like you, you might find these questions helpful:
- Can you share a story of someone you have worked with?
- I have been diagnosed with depression/bipolar/ADHD/[insert mental health struggle]. Can this still work for me?
- Do you work with people like me who are [insert your situation]?
Other than these, qualification questions focus on being open to the process. Share your situation and feel if you and the coach are a good fit.
No-Gos: Don’t Ask Your Coach These Questions
When you’re considering whether or not to work with a coach (or other leader or friend), it’s important to look for certain qualities. Unfortunately, some books on personal development wrongly assume that certain criteria are indicative of a good coach. But don’t be fooled by these false indicators. The key is to find someone who meets the criteria above.
Examples of such unhelpful questions are:
- Do you currently work with a coach yourself?
- What are your values, and how do you ensure you live by them?
- What is the best productivity tip that has worked for you?
- What are your big goals for the future, and how do you go about achieving them?
It’s understandable why you might want to ask these types of questions when choosing a coach. You want to make sure that they’re someone who truly believes in the coaching process and is constantly working to improve themselves. However, these questions aren’t going to help you make a decision. Just because a coach works with other coaches or has all their goals in order doesn’t mean they’re going to be a good fit for you. In fact, your coach might feel uncomfortable if you ask them personal questions that are unrelated to the coaching subject. Just like you wouldn’t ask your dentist if they brushed their teeth last night, you shouldn’t ask your coach about their personal life unless it’s relevant to the coaching subject.
When looking for a coach, it’s important to find someone who is a master of their craft and can help you with the specific problem you have. Coaching is a unique skill developed over hundreds of hours, so you want someone experienced and knowledgeable. Thanks for considering this!
So save yourself time and ask questions that will help you make sure they are a great fit.
HOW IMPORTANT ARE THE DETAILS OF THE COACHING PROGRAM?
You have the best of intentions: You want to ensure that your program is designed specifically for you. It feels as though these details could make all the difference in how well it works!
But in reality, they don’t matter very much.
Asking questions like these is a great way to annoy your coach. They have worked with dozens of clients and created a coaching program that they know works.
The coach is the expert here, so you should ask what kind of communication style works best for them: calls every two weeks, email check-ins weekly, or Voxer support. So remember that the coaching process is more important than the details. If everything else feels right about working with this coach, don’t be sidetracked by minor issues.
If you’re feeling unsure or anxious about signing up with a particular coach, it’s important to listen to your gut instinct. If you don’t feel comfortable, it’s probably not the right fit. Once you’ve started working with your coach, half the battle is relaxing and trusting that they know what they’re doing. They’ve helped people like you before and they can help you too. Just relax and let them show you the way.
Checklist: How to Decide if You Should Hire the Coach
After the call, evaluate the experience and see if coaching is for you. Here are some factors to consider:
- You feel chemistry with the coach. Maybe you even laughed together on the call.
- The coach really cares. They took the time to get to know you and your unique situation.
- The coach validated your feelings and was empathetic. You didn’t feel judged or ashamed.
- The coach listened to you and maybe even offered some new insight into your situation.
- You felt seen and heard after the call.
- They didn’t pressure you to sign up now (or else the price will go up, the offer expires, …). Limited coaching spots are okay, so long as that doesn’t feel like an icky tactic.
- The call was a real conversation. The coach wasn’t just walking you through a sales script.
- If you did some impromptu coaching, the coach offered more than use basic mirroring techniques. They didn’t just use what you said to turn it into reasons to sign up for their program.
- The coach had a compassionate response to all your concerns; they made you feel safe.
- They made sure all your questions were answered before they let you sign up.
Looking good? Then it’s time to do a final gut check before you hand over your money.
The gut check!
What It Feels like When the Coach Isn’t Right for You
Sometimes we hire a coach for the wrong reasons. This will make it hard to get the results you want. In the end, you might leave frustrated and ashamed of having spent the money.
Here are some warning signs that signal you’re not in the right state for coaching (or that the coach is not the right fit):
- You want to throw all your money at them to make your problems go away
- You hope they will finally fix you
- You don’t allow yourself to feel doubt about the program.
- You don’t have chemistry with the coach, but their sales page sounds amazing, so you don’t care.
- You shouldn’t be feeling anxious and like you’ll have to “step up” to get results
- You experience “good student” syndrome and want to become the best case study the coach has ever had
Signals That the Coach Is Right for You
This is how you want to feel reading a productivity coach’s sales page or after the discovery call:
- Validated and seen vs. shamed and agitated
- Hopeful and encouraged
- The coach shows empathy and compassion – you don’t feel talked down to by an expert.
- Excited or grounded
- Like the coach really gets you as a human and cares about your success
- Like the coach understands your problem and describes a solution that makes sense to you